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Arroyo Seco Freeway…L.A’s first to the ‘burbs

July 8, 2016 in Driving, History, LA, Transportation, Vintage

Hard to imagine this film is from 77 years ago…those old Kodachromes stood the test of time.  The freeway hasn’t changed much over the years, the grassy median is gone replace with concrete.  The sharp turns and those instant on and off ramps exist in many parts.  The individual lanes aren’t color coded but marked with botts dots nots, but every fun unbanked curve and straights still exists as it was when it opened.

Just Vin, Baby!

June 18, 2016 in Celebrity, History, LA, People, Radio, Sports, Television

2346672-2346671-home_vin_scullyEarlier this month, I crowed via social media about getting a pair of cheap seats to the Vin Scully Appreciation Game at Dodgers Stadium this coming September and how by not spending $1,400 for field-level butt rests I would have mooooore than enough to get me a customized Dodgers jersey honoring The Greatest Broadcaster Of Aaaaaaall Times who I unabashedly idolize and cherish!

Turns out easier said than done.

But let me back and fill for those who might be entirely and inexplicably clueless. Vincent Edward Scully, 88, has been the Los Angeles Dodgers announcer since they were the Brooklyn Dodgers back in the year Nineteen Hundred and Fifty. Last year, The Beloved Institution That He Is announced his retirement would commence at the end of this his Sixty-Seventh season behind the mic. If that two-digit number doesn’t blow you away, what’s wrong with you!? Sorry, didn’t mean to snap. What I mean is: think on that kind of longevity a little harder. What’s the longest job you’ve ever held? Me, it’s six years. Next, factor in this nebulous and dysfunctional City Of Change that we call home, and how its landmarks have been torn down and built over and torn down again and again forming sedimentary stacks of reinvention rising upon a foundation of disregard for our past. Then mix in the changes the Dodgers as an organization have been through these last 20 years alone? Lastly mix in the fact that most of us came from somewhere else and a lot of us remain unrooted to L.A. as a permanent base.

All the while, there has been Scully. Since the Dodgers moved here in 1958, there has been Scully. Every single year of my old-ass life as a native Angeleno and Dodgers fan: There. Has. Been. Scully. If his landmark status previously eluded you, maybe now you can see how people such as myself have formed such an attachment to this humble extraordinary man — who, incidentally, would be the first to dismiss such adoration. Maybe now you can see how people such as myself are among hundreds of thousands who really can’t fathom our town or its soundwaves without Scully in it. I still can’t fully wrap my head around the idea of his “It’s time for Dodger baseball!” opener at every home game not ringing out next year.

But let’s return now to my original point: the jersey!

Read the rest of this entry →

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Fabulous Fords Forever set for April 17

April 5, 2016 in Driving, Entertainment, Events, History, News, Transportation

FFF2016Two Thousand plus Ford, Edsel, Mercury, Lincoln and assorted oddball European Ford products will grace the huge lot to the east of Knott’s Berry Farm Sunday April 17.  Admission is FREE!

This is probably one of my most favorite single vendor shows here in the LA Metro Area.  You’ll see everything from the earliest survivor Model T’s to the completely restored to the custom chop top low riders.  You name it you’ll see it.

Deets: 10-6, Sunday April 7, Beach and La Palma Blvd, Buena Park CA  MAP HERE.

School v. Tool Revisited

December 20, 2015 in History, LA, Law, Media, News, People, Politics

Screengrab from LATimes.comThis story in today’s Los Angeles Times (link) explores the incident from which I derived a foundation-level disdain for Donald Trump, and I, like much of 1989 Los Angeles, was only all too relieved when his proposed tower plan was killed.

It’s understandable given Trump’s recent and meteoric rise as a politician that the article’s tone is chest-thumpy about how he “got schooled,” but still it’s interesting (and disappointing) given the ultimate loss of the Ambassador Hotel. The irony, of course, is that at the time of the clash the subtext of the LAUSD’s efforts to build public opinion against the project wasn’t just how distasteful it was for Trump to erect a quarter-mile phallic monument to himself, but that the Ambassador deserved the far better fate of being preserved and repurposed as a school, rather than razed in vein for so vain an endeavor.

Here’s a surprise: Turned out school and civic officials were rather disingenuous in their commitment to preserving the historic landmark. And while one could well argue that the new school there now is better than a giant tool and how, what we’ve learned a quarter-century after Donald’s failed deal is that  the Ambassador was doomed to be collateral damage either way.

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Rancho Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance 2015 the overview

September 23, 2015 in Driving, Entertainment, Events, History, South Bay, Transportation

By far my most favorite auto show in the Los Angeles area has got to be the Rancho Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance.  This is a tightly curated show, few if any basic rides, it focuses on the premiere rides of days gone by.  Two categories, restored and survivors that they call “Preservation” that are all original and just detailed out to show quality.

Make the jump for a few of my favorite cars of the day. Read the rest of this entry →

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Griffith Park…when size really matters

August 26, 2015 in History, LA, News, Real Estate, Which Side?

The map series...click to embiggen Every now and then I get stuff in my inbox thats just too cool not to share. This infographic from Sparefoot shows just how freaking BIG Griffith Park is compared to other cities of the world.  At over 4000 acres its one of the biggest city park in the world.  No one else comes close, heck its even larger than some national parks.  But I digress, when Brian Shreckengast of Sparefoot reached out and asked if I would be interested in sharing with all of you the answer was an emphatic YES!

Click to embiggen the pic to the right to get the whole effect.  Using some special mapping software Brian mapped the outlines of Griffith Park and then used that map to superimpose it over some of the worlds cities to show just how big and special Griffith Park is.  Massive is an understatement.  The full story on how they did it and larger maps can be seen on their WEB SITE.

I have always loved this park.  When I was a valley dweller, Valley Village to be precise, this was my go to place to hike, walk, or just clear my head.  I miss the road that once was open from the observatory to Travel Town as it gave excellent spots to stop and and soak in the city sights and vistas.  But thats been closed at least 20 years at this point and I doubt they’ll reopen which is sad as it makes so much of the park out of reach for a quick walk on the trails.

What’s your favorite spot in the park?

Image courtesy Brian Shreckengast of Sparefoot and used with permission.

 

 

The Wright Stuff: Hollyhock House Is Back

February 14, 2015 in Art, Events, History, Hollywood, LA, Vintage

I’m an unapologetic fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. So even though I’ve toured his Mayan-revival masterpiece several times over my life, when I heard the city was going to celebrate the re-opening of his Hollyhock House following a two-year, $4-million dollar restoration, by throwing open wide the 94-year-old landmark’s concrete doors for a 24-hour reacquainting period — at no charge and shut up: pictures allowed inside! — I told my wife Susan that we were going to celebrate Valentine’s Day morning by getting up early and getting ourselves over to Barnsdall Park to get all up in some of L.A.’s mostly freshly polished historic starchitecture.

And like thousands of other SoCalians, we did. And it was glorious. Sure we had to park down on the street and then wait in line beginning at 7:30 a.m. for about 90 minutes, and yeah, there were those foodies behind us in said line who just seriously could not shut up about how transcendental the foie-gras was at Union in Pasadena, but once inside…? Ah yes. Now that was transcendental, and Wrightly so.

My Flickr photoset of the thumbnails below is here. Going forward, Hollyhock House will be open for self-guided tours ($7 per person; no cameras allowed inside) Thursday-Sunday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

hhouse

 

Look What I Found: P. E. Railway Map From The Way Back

February 7, 2015 in History, LA, Mass Transit

When I read current stories with headlines along the lines of “Subway To The Sea Could Reach Century City By 2026,” it makes maps like the one below of Los Angeles’ mass transit system from 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, ONE HUNDRED and 1, 2, and THREE years ago seem all the more simultaneously sigh-inducing glorious and heartbreaking.

Feast yer eyes upon the elaborate system we had way back in the year Nineteen Hundred and Twelve (cleek to enlargify) and as you do consider not only:

  • the comparative low amount it would have cost to keep and upgrade through the years versus what it cost to dismantle entirely in favor of the huge sums required to build our long over-burdened freeway system;
  • and the massive amounts it will be costing us to be able to get to Century City in 15 years (probably more like 18).

Lines_of_the_Pacific_Electric_Railway_in_Southern_California_1912_(uclamss_294_b120_1)

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Preserving Los Angeles history one building at a time

January 9, 2015 in environment, History, LA, Law, News, People, San Gabriel Valley, Social issues, Vintage

Broadway Arcade in DTLA, click to embiggen

Broadway Arcade in DTLA, click to embiggen

The good folks at Esotouric Bus Tour Adventures, Kim Cooper and Richard Schave do a lot more than give really nifty tours of the city.  They are historians with a major heart on for the city.  In the best way of course.

This weeks newsletter outlined the winners and losers in their efforts to help preserve the cities architectural history.  It outlines 25 things this year, good bad and ugly, that happened in terms of historic preservation.

The most exciting bit was the passing of city ordinance 13-1104 requiring public notification when any building more than 45 years is to be demolished.   Why does this matter?  It will give preservation groups around the city the chance to speak up and stop the destruction of those building with a history or architectural significane from being trashed in the name of progress and a new high density mixed use project.  Not all buildings need to be preserved that are that old, but many should as it is part of the texture and character of the city that shouldn’t be trashed for a new parking lot or apartment jungle.

Pic by me of the Broadway Arcade while on an iphone safari.  Click to embiggen

Archival digging: Culver City houses in 1951

January 7, 2015 in History, LA

As has been reported, well, just about everywhere, housing prices in Los Angeles are at an all-time dismal high. As a chronically underemployed academic type, I’m pretty resigned to the fact that my cats and I will be renters as long as we deign to call this fair city home. I was curious, though, about what house prices would have been like in my neighborhood, when it was first established.

I live on the very western edge of Culver City, in a neighborhood practically underneath the 405, near the Ballona Creek. (The city recently put up some banners along Sepulveda proclaiming that the neighborhood’s name is “Culver Village,” but will always and forever refer to it fondly as “Tito’s Tacos-adjacent.”) Most of the homes here are bungalows, built in the 1940s and 1950s.

After a bit of digging in a historical newspaper database, I turned a little gem – a 1951 LA times article about then-new residential developments in Sunkist Park, which I just south of the Ballona Creek. Not quite my neighborhood, but pretty close by. According to the article, developers built about 315 homes in the area, about half of which were sold before construction began. You could pick a house in one of fifteen different styles (including the super cute storybook ranch-style house pictured below), and they came pre-decorated: “early buyers have a selection of tile, wallpaper, linoleum, and paint colors,” the Times reported.

sunkistparkhouse

Prices ranged from $10,777 to $11,100. Adjusted for inflation, and that would be $97,884 to $100,818 in today’s dollars – which makes current house prices seem all the more depressing!

Sunkist Park, it turns out, used to be the location of the Culver City airport, which, according to Julie Lugo Cerra, Culver City’s city historian, began operations in 1927. It closed in 1951, and the Sunkist Park housing development was built on part of the airport’s former site. I’m curious to know more about the provenance of the neighborhood’s name – was it once the site of a Sunkist citrus orchard? Did the developers (Richard Diller and Irving Kalsman, according to the Times) have a connection to Sunkist? I’m going to do a bit more digging to see what I can find, but in the meantime, if anyone knows anything else about the origins of the neighborhood, comment away!

Lost Angeles: Tara Spotting

January 4, 2015 in culver city, Entertainment, Filmmaking/Filmmakers, History, LA, Movies

Oh no: not that Tara. I’m talking about the famed fictional plantation manse from a little film back in the day whose name coincidentally rhymes with the last name of the film’s central character — O’Hara, as in Scarlett. As in “Gone With The Wind,” or GWTW, if you will.

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Yeah, that Tara.

Let me back up. I ravenously follow the Photos of Los Angeles group on Facebook, gobbling up its never-ending parade of pictures of L.A.’s distant and not-so-distant past. A few days ago this photo (at right, click 10881489_814964795228276_3288342673478902642_nto enlargify), was posted of a still from an episode of the 1950s TV series “Superman,” showing its star, George Reeves (who coincidentally had a part in GWTW) in full Clark Kent mode, on a hill back-dropped by a broad swath of our smog-inundated city. The poster, Sally Deupree, asked, “Culver City. Recognize the building in the lower left with four columns?”

I immediately recognized it as Tara — more specifically the exterior facade built for the movie, which meant Reeves was standing hat in hand on what is now a section of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park — which meant beyond him was Jefferson Boulevard, then the Ballona Creek channel and then the old Pathe Studio backlot, where so many of the exterior scenes of GWTW were realized.

In an attempt to get a past/present frame of reference (I last did that with the location of Wrigley Field’s homeplate in South Los Angeles), I went on a googlehunt for a layout of the old studio, and hit gold at the 40 Acres website with this 1940 map (click to enlargify) pinpointing the various GWTW sets on the Pathe Studio backlot, with Tara’s position indicated there on the left.

40acres_plot_plan_1940

Then, of course, for a present-day juxtaposition I google-mapped the location (click to enlargify):

current

Which means basically that at the deadend of Hayden Place south of Higuera Street, somewhere around the current location of Woo Agency and Omelet you can stand on the paved-over land upon which Tara once stood, not to forget Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, and, yes, George Reeves. Cue the sweeping overture that is “Tara’s Theme”:

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Raymond Chandler did an operetta…make its production a reality

December 27, 2014 in Books, Entertainment, Events, Fictional LA, History, LA, News, People, Theatre/Stage, Vintage

ChandlerBy now most of you should know that I’m a complete and utter fool when it comes to Raymond Chandlers works. I’ve read so many of the books and loved how they incorporated Los Angeles history and places into their fictional story.

I caught wind of the operetta a few months ago at a LAVA meeting.  Its titled “The Princess and the Pedlar” and is co-authored with pianist Julian Pascal.  Sounds pretty cool and should be easy to bring to the stage, right?  Not so fast, the estate of Raymond Chandler say its insignificant and won’t grant release of the work.  It will have to wait until 2029 at the earliest when its released to the public domain.  Sad.

But all is not lost, Kim Cooper of Esotouric and author of the “The Kept Girl” isn’t taking that hard no as a final answer.  She has a petition on change.org asking the Estate to reconsider its position.  Please sign.  I have, its an important bit of the Los Angeles story by one of our own authors that deserves to be seen.

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Must see exhibits at CA Science Center…and lunch

December 23, 2014 in Art, Classic Eats, Downtown, Entertainment, Events, History, LA, Shopping, Vintage

Pompeii corpse cast - click to embiggen

Pompeii corpse cast – click to embiggen

I have to tell you, the Pompeii exhibit at the CA Science Center through January 11 is quite the show to take in. Amazing artifacts, jewelry and such. But what really got me was the casts of the bodies found in the city as they excavated it.

In short August 24, 79 The city of Pompeii was struck by an eruption of Mt Vesuvius.  The folks ran and hid, then were buried with ash.  Flash forward some 1600 years and archeologist figured out the ash covered corpses were hollow and proceeded to fill them with plasters capturing this folks in the final moments of their life.  Moving.  Morbid.  Incredible.  Much more telling than all the artifcats and murals.

An added bonus, and I don’t know how we got it, but since we bought our tickets for Pompeii online a nice California Science Center employee gave the lovely Mrs and I passes to see the space shuttle Endeavour.  Read the rest of this entry →

The Kids Are Alright…But Life Is Hard. Cobalt Cafe to Close After 23 Years

December 16, 2014 in Books, coffee, Entertainment, Events, History, LA, Music, The Valley

The beloved all-ages venue in the far west Valley that has given thousands of local kids their start in music, tens of thousands of poets a chance to read their work, and probably millions of young people to tag/sticker bathrooms (and hallways…and sidewalks…and rear exterior walls…and everything else), and just generally get the F outta the house without having to go to the mall–will be closing at the end of the month. I regret to pass this news on so late but I only just found out myself.

Vanna, 2009, Creative Commons by photog Carly Hoskins.

Vanna, 2009, Creative Commons by photog Carly Hoskins.

cobaltcafe-300x225

Extremely patient and awesome owner Dave Politi founded the Cobalt Cafe coffeehouse in 1991. Grunge was a rising tide, emo was in its early stages, weird ska/funk/pop-punk hybrids particular to the Valley and south LA in general were bubbling up from high schoolers’ garages, and Starbucks wasn’t here.
I was a high school goth chick, shy as hell and loathe to speak to anyone. My friends’ bands played the shows. Seeing them, their openers, and those for whom they opened, up close and personal on a stage about a foot off the ground and approximately three feet from my face so their sweat flew in my eyes, lit off a fuse within myself that altered my DNA, transformed my passions and creative dreams forever. I got up the guts to read my mediocre emo high-school-girl poetry at the weekly poetry readings.

Credit Cobalt Cafe. Artist & photo unknown, obtained from Wikimedia Commons via Creative CommonsI got to know people. I became a regular. I met my first long-term boyfriend there, played chess there, bought punk records from unknown bands there from small private presses before records were collectors’ items, met some of the folks I’d run into long, long down the line ten years later in Silver Lake at Spaceland (and in other rooms), watched the comfy overstuffed furniture go the way of the dodo (too many episodes of puking, sweating and cigarettes leads them to an early grave), giving way to a more Spartan interior.  People liked my poetry enough that I got a featured reading at a coffeehouse on Sunset Blvd, and I kept writing long into my late 20s. I sometimes wonder if all that writing didn’t lay the groundwork for my public blogging and journalism career, which itself has led to experiences and interactions that could never have been imagined by the mind of a repressed, shy 17-year-old black-lipstick-wearing girl in 1996.

Augustus, 2005, photog Stacey Jischke via Creative Commons

Augustus, 2005, photog Stacey Jischke via Creative Commons

Photo credit Cobalt Cafe.

R.I.P. overstuffed chars and couches.

Bitter End in 2011, photog Robert Bejil via Creative Commons.

Bitter End in 2011, photog Robert Bejil via Creative Commons.

Every time I have returned to the Valley to see a line of self-conscious green-and-black-haired high schoolers goofing off with each other in front of the venue, or bros in short pants and Deftones t-shirts unloading a 350 Ford, I have smiled to myself, grateful that sometimes, good things don’t change, and that there’s a place for us weirdos to go–still. Yeah, sometimes the music sucked. Well, usually it does when people are that green. But it was music, and we–now, they–were and are making it. Some of them got really, really good. Some of the poets went on to long careers as luminaries in the poetry arts scene throughout the US. Records were make, books published. Creative dreams came true.

The cool blue light and scrawled-upon bouncer's desk in front of the venue.

The place reeked of sweat, coffee and cigarettes; the bathrooms are an archaeological dig though layers of paint, Sharpie, and stickers; sometimes the baristas were overwhelmed or had a ‘tude (as is proper, whiners!), but that all just made it better. I have been everywhere, man, and seen a lotta shows, but the Cobalt was the most genuine, unprepossessing, free-spirited creative fermentation machine I had ever seen. You did not have to be hip to walk in. You did not have to wear the right clothes. In fact, it’s still pretty hipster-repellent.

Sadly, Dave’s got his own Life S**t going on these days, and there’s less and less money coming in the doors with promoters and bookers being less supportive than they used to be; and let’s face it, non-Starbucks-priced coffee will never keep an indie business afloat, especially when your clientele is allowed to just hang out and buy nothing the entire time they’re there.

Dave Politi should be lauded for giving so much of his life and energy to a cause–“the kids” and “the music” and “the words”. The longtime host of Tuesday Night Poetry–he’s been doing it almost as long as the Cobalt was open–Rick Lupert–should be thanked, and I encourage you to see him read his funny and thoughtful work at other venues around town. All the hosts of Monday night open mics, all the baristas who endured patiently for many years, every doorman who had to bust kids doing the things that kids do–thank you, one and all. Here’s to the Cobalt Cafe. From such a humble little corner of the West San Fernando Valley, her influence has already spread around the world. Dave and the Cobalt are studies in how simply making space for others to be themselves, can ripple outwards in a quietly irresistible wave of transformation.

Hover over photos for Creative Commons/other photo credits.

 

See’s Candies Holiday Pop-Up Shops

December 10, 2014 in Food & Drink, History, Holidays, LA, Seasonal

See'sPopUpIt’s the most wonderful time of the year, especially if you love Los Angeles native, See’s Candies! They are putting up pop-up holiday shops around town so you don’t have to brave the mall when you get invited somewhere last minute and don’t want to arrive with your hands hanging. They are selling only boxed chocolates, no candy counter full of individual yummies to mix and match. But when Aunt Gertrude is stopping by and you’ve accidentally left her off your list, you can race in for that two pound box of dark chocolate nuts and chews she loves so much.

Check locations here.

And there are two more days to enter into the See’s Candies For Life contest!

My personal favorite – Scotchmallows.